Game #77: Reunited KZB Line and Georgie spark Rangers to satisfying victory over Blues


Thank You! A victorious Blueshirts salute the fans following the 4-2 victory over the Blues. AP Photo via Getty Images courtesy NYRangers.

It was Fan Appreciation night at The Garden. Even though they won’t participate in the playoffs a second consecutive year, these Blueshirts don’t know the word quit. It’s not in their vocabulary under coach David Quinn.

They fell behind the playoff bound Blues 2-0 in the first period, but recovered strong by scoring four unanswered goals for a satisfying 4-2 victory over a good St. Louis team. It was a good night for the reunited KZB Line and rookie Alexandar Georgiev.

With Chris Kreider deeming himself ready to go, he wanted to get back in. That’s commendable. With nothing but pride on the line, it sets a good example. Despite what NY Post columnist Larry Brooks says, Kreider has proven he should stay. He entered with just two goals over his last 21 games. But we know he hasn’t been 100 percent. The combination of size, strength and speed are areas this team lacks without the valuable alternate captain. That’s why I’d extend him this summer.

Even though the cohesive trio only combined for two goals, they easily could’ve had more. A wonderful play started by Kreider with Buchnevich passing for Zibanejad for a beautiful finish was negated by a tacky goalie interference challenge. Despite Brendan Smith making contact with St. Louis rookie goalie Jordan Binnington outside the crease before the Zibanejad shot, they overturned his goal. Of course they did. The NHL seems to have it out for our team. I like conspiracies, but rarely in sports. Let’s just say I’ve had it with the league screwing the Rangers.

What should’ve been a 2-1 game instead was 2-0 after one period. The Blues able to score their two goals 27 seconds apart. On a innocent looking play near the net, Vladimir Tarasenko caught Georgiev off his post to squeeze his 30th in. It was one he wanted back. On the next shift, Jaden Schwartz set up David Perron for his 21st for a two goal St. Louis lead.

Despite playing well by outshooting the Blues 11-10, the Rangers found themselves in a undeserved hole. The top line created some chances aside from the negated Zibanejad goal. Buchnevich had a good backhand sail wide. The second line was also involved.

In the same game Kreider returned, Marc Staal also was back replacing a ineffective Fredrik Claesson. Fourth line secret weapon Brendan Smith shifted back to defense. He paired with Neal Pionk while Staal reunited with cohesive partner Tony DeAngelo. Brady Skjei and Kevin Shattenkirk have been working together for a while with mixed results. It’ll be interesting to follow what they do with the blueline moving forward.

It’s funny how things turn out. The first was very competitive and the Rangers trailed by two. The second was mostly Blues, who held a 20-9 edge in shots. It didn’t matter due to Georgiev, who recovered well by making 20 of his 44 saves, earning the game’s number one star. With the poised 23-year old dialed in, his teammates responded.

Ryan Strome continues to play very well down the stretch. He scored his 17th goal on a net mouth scramble to cut the deficit in half. It was his fourth goal over the last five. He’s now up to 16 as a Blueshirt since being stolen by GM Jeff Gorton from the Oilers for Ryan Spooner (LMAO!!!!!). Since posting 2-1-3 in a home win over the Devils on March 9, Strome has nine points (6-3-9) over 10 games. He’s proving to be a good top nine player who can play center or right wing.

Eighty seconds later, Kreider lifted the stick of a Blue to keep a play alive for Zibanejad. He then perfectly set up a Buchnevich one-timer for his 19th to tie the score. A very unselfish play by the team’s leading scorer, who is looking like the next captain with his actions on and off the ice. Kreider didn’t get a point, but it was his smart play that led to the goal. They missed what he brings when he was out. I’d love to see what that line is capable of now that Buchnevich is a much better player. Let’s hope!

The reason the game was tied was Georgiev, who answered the bell. If he wasn’t as sharp in the loss to the Penguins last time out, he more than made up for it. It shows a lot of character and proves that he should be the backup again behind Henrik Lundqvist next year. That’s even if they sign Igor Shestyorkin. He can be developed at Hartford. There’s no rush.

So, the Blues got 16 of the 21 total shots in the third. Like a broken record, it didn’t matter. Georgiev made the key stops and the Rangers did the rest.

It was the supporting cast that worked hard for the game decider. On a gritty shift, Vinni Lettieri and Brett Howden combined to set up Jimmy Vesey’s 17th at 5:47. Vesey had gone 13 straight games without a point. He got off the schneid.

After missing what seemed to be a easy empty netter, Buchnevich got the puck over to Kreider for his 27th with eight seconds left. Both grinned and for good reason. Kreider because it had to feel good to score after his slump. Buchnevich probably due to Kreider giving him the business on the missed chance for number 20.

It was nice to see. A good night for a team that hadn’t beaten any quality competition since the deadline. It had to feel good to also get the home crowd a win.

BONY 3 STARS:

3rd 🌟 Mika Zibanejad, Rangers (primary assist on Buchnevich tally, goal taken away for tacky challenge, first NYR center 25 or younger with 30 goals since Darren Turcotte)

2nd 🌟 Pavel Buchnevich, Rangers (19th goal and assist to give him points in six straight)

1st 🌟 Alexandar Georgiev, Rangers (44 saves including 36 the final 2 periods)

Funny stuff with Staal during his interview. 😂

About Derek Felix

Derek Felix is sports blogger whose previous experience included separate stints at ESPN as a stat researcher for NHL and WNBA telecasts. The Staten Island native also interned for or hockey historian Stan Fischler and worked behind the scenes for MSG as a production assistant on New Jersey Devil telecasts. An avid New York sports fan who enjoys covering events, writing, concerts, movies and the outdoors, Derek has covered consecutive Staten Island Yankees NY Penn League championships in '05 and '06. He also scored Berkeley Carroll high school basketball games from '06-14 and provided an outlet for the Park Slope school's student athletes. Hitting Back gives them the publicity they deserve. In his free time, he also attends Ranger games and is a loyal St. John's alum with a sports management degree. The Battle Of New York administrator and chief editor can be followed below on Twitter and Facebook.
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